The students that survived the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida are not Nazis. To most, this is an unnecessary statement. Simply put, they are young people who have experienced great trauma and loss that refuse to let gun violence continue to affect others the way it did them. These teens turned tragedy into an international conversation, but resistance to their message in the form of anti-Semitic and Nazi comparisons has made its way to the surface both online and offline.
Last week, police arrested a man for hanging anti-Semitic, anti-gun control flyers near the American University campus in Washington, D.C. The flyers use a photo of David Hogg, one of the survivors and most vocal advocates for the March for Our Lives movement. This is just one of many times these teenage activists have been verbally attacked. Late last month, a state senator’s aide compared Hogg to Adolf Hitler. Fellow survivor Emma González was the target of a hateful comment from a candidate for the Maine state House of Representatives. A Minnesota representative compared students who participated in March for Our Lives to the Hitler Youth. Comments have ranged from mockery to hate-filled, but they all share a common thread – they all come from adults who should know better.
Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Congress representatives co-authored a statement condemning the recent attacks on the students, reports Tablet magazine. “It is shameful for anyone to attack students – especially survivors of gun violence – with anti-Semitic slurs and Nazi comparisons,” reads their statement. “Policy differences are never an excuse for anti-Semitism. We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms and reject any inappropriate evocation of the Holocaust or comparison to Nazis.” It should be noted that 40% of the Stoneman Douglas student body is Jewish, five of the 17 people killed that day were Jewish, and a number of the leaders of the Never Again movement are Jewish as well, so accusations of anti-Semitism are not only unfounded but grossly insensitive.
A survey released last week on Holocaust Remembrance Day found that many adults lack basic knowledge of what happened to millions of people only 70 years ago. While Holocaust denial is rare, the study found that the magnitude is largely underestimated with 31% of Americans believing that two million or fewer Jewish people were killed – it was around six million – and that 66% of millennials did not know what Auschwitz, the largest Nazi-run concentration camp, was.
In two short months, the Parkland students have initiated historic demonstrations of support for change, but some do not agree with their stance on gun reform. For the record, they advocate for stricter gun laws, more thorough licensing procedures, and the banning of military grade weapons from private citizens. They’re not trying to make everyone hand over all their guns. Harkening back to my high school physics textbook, it is said that each action is met with an equal and opposite reaction.
The argument that these pro-gun control teens are tantamount to Hitler is a classic example of association fallacy. So common in fact that it has its own name: “reductio ad Hitlerum.” The idea is that a policy or idea leads to, or is the same as, Hitler’s institution of the Third Reich and therefore is wrong. Unfortunately, history shows that hate propaganda which has woven its way into meme culture and social media is effective. It is colouring the way people view the Never Again movement, often in place of researching it for themselves.
It is one thing to respectfully disagree with someone, it is another thing to launch hateful and insensitive attacks on students for trying to keep others from experiencing the same tragedy they did.
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